The total wind power generation in Canada increased from 3.3TWh in 2006 to 30.4TWh in 2016 at a CAGR of 24.9%. Generation increased mostly in line with the increasing capacity. In 2013, there was a sharp increase in generation and it reached 23TWh. It is expected to reach 50TWh by 2025 from 31.6TWh in 2017.

Renewable energy targets and emission standards

The Canadian Government hopes that all of the electricity used in its buildings and operations will be from renewable energy sources (RESs) by 2025. It also sets a target to reduce the GHG emissions by 40% by 2025. Ontario has ambitious targets for reducing its GHG emissions by 15% by 2020, 37% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. This initiative supports a cleaner and more innovative economy that reduces emissions and protects the environment. At the provincial level, several initiatives are being offered to support the development of Renewable Energy. Prince Edward Island is expected to build two new wind farms, one by 2019 and one by 2025.

Policies enabling wind power development

The government has introduced, or is in the process of formulating, policies to promote renewable energy development. In April 2006, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) introduced a 900MW threshold cap. This cap was a short-term means of ensuring the system’s reliability, until work could be done with power producers on accommodating more wind power. In September 2007, the 900MW dependability thresholds on wind generation were replaced by the Market and Operational Framework (MOF) for wind integration in Alberta. This plan allows the wind generation forecast operator to formulate an operating plan, which helps develop comprehensive evaluations of wind power forecasts and improves the computation of resource needs, the efficiency of procurement, and cost reductions.

Under the Innovative Clean Fund 2007, more than C$32.6 million (US$30.49 million) was provided by the provincial government for British Columbia’s clean, efficient energy technology to reduce GHG emissions. Wind Atlas was introduced in Nova Scotia, which was supported by C$78,000 (US$72,946) worth of grants, which showed how much wind potential is available and where to locate it. The Atlas supports smaller-scale wind developers as well as the evaluation of the growth of potential wind projects.


Feed-in tariffs (FiTs) are the major method of government that promotes the rapid deployment of wind energy in Canada. Ontario offers a standard-offer programme, which sets a FiT for small renewable energy production projects, with the aim of making it easier and more economical for businesses to supply renewable power to the provincial grid. The programme has an optimum rate of return over a 20-year contract period.

DCRs attract investments

Along with the FiT programme, Ontario has established local and domestic content regulations to encourage investment and to ensure the government achieves tangible benefits in terms of local investment and jobs. The minimum local-content requirement (LCR) level increases over time and is determined by the year the project became commercially operational. In Ontario, the domestic content requirement (DCR), along with $110 million in economic development financing for establishing four manufacturing plants, attracted a $7-billion wind turbine manufacturing investment from South Korea’s Samsung.

Hindering high costs of installation

Canada has a huge potential for offshore wind development that has not been realised. Despite Canada’s vast potential, there are several significant hurdles involved in developing offshore wind in the country. One of the main hurdles that hinders the use of offshore wind energy is the high cost of installation, and operations and maintenance (O&M). Offshore wind turbines are usually located far from shore in higher and more dangerous winds. They also face greater potential for corrosion from saltwater exposure and are accessible only by boat or helicopter.

There is also the huge cost associated with transmitting the produced energy to the onshore customer. In the past, proposed offshore projects have been shelved because of high costs and regulatory hurdles. For example, Naikun Wind Energy Group proposed an offshore wind farm in the Hecate Strait, British Columbia. The project would consist of up to 110 turbines and produce enough energy to power about 200,000 homes, but has been put on hold because the cost is too high.

Another factor that hinders the offshore wind energy growth in Canada is the potential impact of offshore wind on the environment. In 2011, the government of Ontario imposed a moratorium on offshore wind projects, which delayed several wind projects in the region, including the 300MW Wolfe Island Shoals wind farm off Lake Ontario proposed by the US company Windstream Energy LLC. Canada had to pay C$28 million in damages and legal costs to Windstream for the losses due to the moratorium. To overcome these challenges, Canada needs to set some comprehensive rules and regulations for approving, regulating and monitoring offshore wind projects.

The big challenge of icing

Annually, around 20% of energy production in the country is reduced due to icing. Along with production losses, ice accretion can affect the structural design load case of a blade, as well as other components in a wind turbine. Accumulation of ice on the blades results in power output reduction, and an increase in the rotor loads, which may require stopping the turbine for safety reasons.

Some of the problems that are directly related to icing and cold climate include measurement errors, power losses, overproduction, mechanical failures, electrical failures and safety hazards. Technical difficulties due to cold climate conditions have occurred for most of the existing projects in Quebec.

In order to deal with this challenge, Canada needs to develop several ice mitigation and cold climate projects for wind energy, along with ice prevention and de-icing systems for blades to minimise downtime periods and increase the benefits from the more favourable winter winds.

Canada needs to develop several ice mitigation and cold climate projects for wind energy, along with ice prevention and de-icing systems for blades to minimise downtime.

DCR led to high prices and delays

The major challenge related with DCR is cost. It raised renewable energy project cost by more than 17% in 2010, due to the time and energy it takes to find local suppliers and fill out the lengthy paperwork. The higher cost of renewable energy production from wind turbines would be passed on to consumers through higher electricity prices.

Also, there were not enough domestically produced components being delivered in a timely way, which resulted in project delays. Targeting all portions of the energy value chain rather than imposing an LCR can help in expanding output in the green energy sector.

Government-sponsored financing should be promoted, such as loan guarantees for developers of alternative green energy.

Average turbine size

During 2006–10, the average turbine size in Canada increased from 1.55 to 2.14MW. In 2010, a number of large turbines of over 2MW capacity were supplied and installed by Vestas, Siemens and Enercon, increasing the country-level average turbine size. In 2011, although the number of large turbines increased, the number of smaller turbines of 2MW capacity and below increased at a much higher rate, making the country’s average turbine size smaller than what it was in the previous year. These <2MW turbines were mostly supplied by Acciona and GE. During 2011–16, with larger and smaller turbines increasing in number, the average turbine size remained quite stable and reached 2.42MW in 2016. This is expected to reach 4.10MW by 2025.

Influences on economy and environment

The wind power sector in Canada was estimated to have generated more than 10,000 jobs within the country in 2015. These include direct and indirect employment at all skill levels.

Canada is a part of the Kyoto Protocol as an Annex-1 country and has developed means to cut GHG emissions in order to comply with the protocol. In the climate talks held in Paris during the COP21 summit, Canada communicated its INDC and voluntarily disclosed information on plans to meet its goal. The target for 2030 is to achieve a GHG emissions level that is 30% below the GHG level of 2005.

Transportation and electricity are two of the largest GHG-emitting sectors in Canada, which is implementing a responsible sector-bysector regulatory approach to reduce emissions. Through this approach, Canada has already taken steps to reduce emissions from the transportation and electricity sectors.

Besides the federal-level targets, province and territory-level initiatives are also being taken to reduce pollution and GHG emissions. Alberta’s government announced in November 2015 that the province plans to phase out its entire coal power capacity by 2030. This implies a reduction of more than 6GW of coal-powered thermal capacity, which would possibly be replaced by clean energy sources, including wind power plants.

The Saskatchewan Government announced that it plans to install about 1.8GW of wind energy along with other forms of renewable energy by 2030. All these plans and programmes, when implemented, are set to increase the amount of GHG reductions from wind energy during 2017–25.

Wind energy is a major contributor to emissions reductions in the electricity sector and has made significantly increasing contributions each year since 2006.

In 2010, wind electricity generated in Canada was equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power one million Canadian households. With increasing cumulative installed capacity, this increased to two million in 2013, and 2.7 million in 2016.

The rise and fall of capital cost and market size from 2010–15

The market size in Canada was at its highest in 2014, at $4.7 billion, due to a sharp rise in installations that year and also due to the gradual rise in capital costs since 2010. In 2015, the capacity additions were only slightly less compared with 2014.

However, the market size fell by more than a billion dollars due to a significant decrease in capital costs, especially the turbine costs.